The French region of Bordeaux has a fascinating history of wine production. Consequently, it has been branded the world’s wine capital. Bordeaux wine history dates back to the 17th century when grapes farming started flourishing in France. The Bordeaux region is situated in the Southwestern part of France and is widely known for its wine tourism. It is an excellent base for tourism, tasting, and buying wine. Bordeaux’s extraordinary urban and architectural ensemble led UNESCO to add it to the World Heritage List in 2007.
In the contemporary world, mentioning the city’s name evokes wine memories in any common individual or a wine enthusiast. How then did the city become synonymous with wine and be labelled the world’s wine capital? Follow this article as we take you through Bordeaux’s history, leading to the title.
The 17th Century Golden Age
The French region of Bordeaux has a long history of making some of the greatest wines in the world. With new clients, the Breton, the Hanseatic, and the Dutch, the city’s Golden Era started in the 17th century. Following the conclusion of France and Britain’s 100-year war, this period began. The new customers became instrumental in the wine business. Winemaking was a traditional practice, with winemakers producing clarets and white wines. Later on, these wines served as the prototypes for the modern Bordeaux wines.
Napoleon III significantly affected the development of Bordeaux’s wine industry in the 19th century. In 1855, he organized a universal expo to showcase the best French wines. He instructed Bordeaux vintners to create a classification system to guide visitors to their best wines. “In just two weeks, a group of negociants and brokers drew up classification on the.
They ranked the wines into five categories, now known as the First through Fifth Growths, based on the price paid for grapes over the past 40 years.” This 1855-classification initiative produced a significant influence on the world’s wine history. Currently, this classification is iconic and has received only two modifications since its inception in 1855.
New Golden Era
A new golden era started in the 19th century, as Bordeaux experienced a burgeoning wine industry. During that time, wine production in the region doubled, wine exports increased, and the wineries received countless new customers. The French relationship with England got back on track, leading to improved demand for wine across the entire Western European region. Moreover, new winemaking practices were adopted, improving Bordeaux wines. However, the region also faced challenges such as Powdery mildew and Phylloxera diseases. Nonetheless, despite all these challenges, Bordeaux rebounded, continuing its growth.
The city is located at the centre of the world’s most famous wine regions, with vineyards spanning over 300000 acres. We know the Bordeaux region for producing more Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot than any other region in the world. It produces elegant wines with a unique character.
The wines produced in the area have a reputation for being among the most costly in the world. The high demand and unique taste of Bordeaux wines have distinguished the city from other regions, building a solid history in the wine industry.
Terroir is an integral part of wine production. A region’s terroir affects the wine’s taste. Interestingly, “terroir” is a French word, translating to “land’s ability to produce agricultural products.” In the grape-farming terminology, terroir includes types of soil and climate, winemaking practices, and terrain conditions. A combination of these characteristics determines the success of a region’s wine. They make the Bordeaux wine region a unique terroir, allowing it to produce wines with unique and elegant tastes.
Bordeaux comprises a diverse terroir allowing various types of grapes to be planted effectively. The wine produced in this region has diverse characteristics, making it one of the most sought-after wines globally. The region experiences a maritime climate with an average growing season temperature of 18 degrees. Besides; it receives an average of 800 mm of rainfall.
It is mainly a flat region, with the highest point being 45 meters above sea level. While a warmer climate and a higher altitude are necessary for the best wines, in this region, Bordeaux’s low altitude becomes a challenge. However, the region has overcome these challenges by exploring its diverse soils, which substitute for some of its inadequacies. The soils play a vital role in regulating the supply of nutrients to the vines, adding to the grape quality. In addition, the region’s subdivisions make it the most diverse in the world.
Bordeaux’s terroir has some rare characteristics that add to the unique taste of its wines. They found some of the most renowned vineyards in the world in Bordeaux, which is the largest AOC in France. The high demand, prices, and genuine value show the wine quality for the money offered by the wines. Most people around the world revere Bordeaux wines and have strived to replicate its winemaking practices. For instance, in the United States, winemakers employ French Oak and winemaking practices to produce Bordeaux-style wines. Besides their taste and quality, Bordeaux’s wines also come in different colours, including red, claret, white, and rose.
Dourthe No. 1 Bordeaux Blanc by Nikoretro
Bordeaux is home to grapes revered globally. The three grape varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot are the most notable. These characteristics have made Bordeaux a wine icon and referred to as the world wine capital. Besides, the region acts as a centre for most wine events historically and in the modern world. Due to all these qualities, traditions, characteristics, terroir, and unique aura, Bordeaux has become the world’s wine capital.
Read: Things You Should Know About Bordeaux Wine Region
On this Day
19 October 1453 – The Hundred Years’ War between France and England ended on this day. The war occurred in the late Middle Ages, starting on 24 May 1337. France and England had armed conflicts during the war. The Hundred Years’ War significantly affected France’s wine business. During the war, France’s occupation by England led to the growth of the Bordeaux wine industry. The wine demand by royal families in England boosted the making of fine wines. France developed a monopoly of wine exports to England and was significantly influenced by the war. Because of the war, the relationship between France and England deteriorated, leading to a drop in wine exports to England. However, King Henry and Eleanor’s marriage effectively ended this long-lasting war. France’s wine production flourished and set Bordeaux as a hub for wine production.
15 May 1855 – The first official Bordeaux Wine Classification was established on this day. French Emperor Napoleon III, organized the Universal Exposition for various commodities and wanted French wines to be represented. The classifications should display and guide visitors in exploring France’s best wines. Napoleon III charged Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce to develop the classification, which ended up being iconic. While it was temporary, the 1855 Wine Classification continues to be used in identifying the quality of a wine today, with little modification. Its effect is still significant in today’s wine industry.
30 July 1935 – The Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) was founded on this day. The institution aimed to transform France’s wine industry by regulating and improving wine quality. They charged the organization with protecting agricultural products with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). In 2007, they renamed it Institut national de l’origine et de la qualite. INAO protects the use of revered names in the wine industry, such as Bordeaux; it also regulates vineyards, wine processing, and ageing regions.
-  Langton’s, “The 1855 Bordeaux Classification Explained | Langton’s Fine Wines,” langtons.com.au, April 6, 2020, https://langtons.com.au/news/the-1855-bordeaux-classification-explained.
-  iDealwine, “The Terroirs of Bordeaux,” iDealwine Blog, March 21, 2022, https://www.idealwine.info/the-terroirs-of-bordeaux/#:~:text=The%20terroir%20is%20made%20up.
-  Eric Asimov, “A Farmer’s Dozen from Bordeaux,” The New York Times, March 31, 2022, sec. Food, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/31/dining/drinks/bordeaux-wines-vignerons.html.
-  Wine Spectator, “The 1855 Bordeaux Classification,” Wine Spectator, March 27, 2019, https://www.winespectator.com/articles/the-1855-bordeaux-classification-3491.